Reading the States: North Dakota

Friday, August 31, 2012


State: NORTH DAKOTA

Fiction:
- The Plague of Doves* by Louise Erdrich
- River Friendly, River Wild by Jane Kurtz
- The Round House by Louise Erdrich
- Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

Nonfiction:
- The Journey of Crazy Horse by Joseph M. Marshall III
- Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains by Rachel Calof
- Grand Forks* by Marilyn Hagerty 

Authors Who Lived Here:
- Louise Erdrich
- Louis L'Amour

Great Bookstores:
Zandbroz Variety 
Main Street Books

*Books I've Read 
*Photo by moi.

On the Road Again

Thursday, August 30, 2012


The Huz and I have serious love of road trips. In the past few years we’ve trekked out to the South Dakota Badlands, the Gulf Shore in Alabama, Lake Powell in Utah, the Redwoods in California, Crater Lake in Oregon, the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado to name a few.

So we’re excited about our next big trip. We’re leaving today to meander out to Glacier National Park (see that gorgeous picture above!) in Montana. We’re so excited! We’ll be hanging out in the Twin Cities, camping in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and enjoying the beautiful trails in Glacier.

So anyway, I’ll be out of commission for the next couple weeks as we make our way through Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana. I have posts scheduled, but I will probably not be doing great on responding to your comments and commenting on your blogs. I will be enjoying your comments though! I have an iPhone, but won’t have great internet access. So I hope you all have a great couple weeks and I’ll be back soon with fun pictures!

Image from here.

Wordless Wednesday: Hyde Park

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Hyde Park in London

More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.

Ready Player One: Gunter Reading List

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Ready Payer One
by Ernest Cline
★★★★☆

Everyone has officially read and reviewed this book. So instead of doing that, I thought I would share the Gunter Reading list that Wade talks about in the book. If you haven’t read the book this doesn’t spoil anything and it’s just a fun list of sci-fi/fantasy authors to check out.

Recommended Gunter Reading List
- Douglas Adams*
- Kurt Vonnegut*
- Neil Stevenson
- Richard K. Morgan
- Stephen King*
- Orson Scott Card*
- Terry Pratchett*
- Terry Brooks*
- Alfred Bester
- Ray Bradbury*
- Joe Halderman
- Robert A. Heinlein*
- J.R.R. Tolkein*
- Jack Vance
- William Gibson 
- Neil Gaiman*
- Bruce Sterling
- Michael Moorcock
- John Scalzi
- Roger Zelazny

*Authors I've Read
BOTTOM LINE: I loved the book. It was filled with geeky goodness, fun characters and a plot that really doesn’t let you go. I listened to the audio version and as everyone has already stated Wil Wheaton is so fantastic as the narrator.

Here are a few great reviews that have already expressed my thoughts…

The Imperfectionists

Monday, August 27, 2012


Imperfections
by Tom Rachman
★★★★

Going into this one I didn’t realize it was a string of interconnected short stories. Using this style we’re introduced to a dozen staff members of an English-language newspaper in Rome, but the real main character of the book is the paper itself.

In between each of the modern-day vignettes are glimpses into the history of the newspaper, beginning with its founding in 1954 by a rich man named Cyrus Ott. He hires a married couple, Betty and Leo, to run the paper. For decades the Ott family continues to fund the paper, even when it is struggling.

The rest of the stories follow individuals who currently work at the paper. There’s the Editor-in-Chief, Kathleen, a business-minded woman whose husband might be having an affair. There’s Lloyd, a washed-up reporter living in Paris, who is desperate for a story. Another employee, Arthur, suffers a tragedy but ends up with a promotion. Herman, a 30-year vet at the paper, spends time with an old friend. He’s able to see his own life from a new perspective when he realizes how much they’ve grown apart.

A few of the stories, notably those featuring Hardy, Abbey, Ruby and especially Winston made me cringe. They’re written so well, but I hate situations where people are blatantly taking advantage of others. Despite that aspect, the characters feel real and the style reminds me of some of Maeve Binchy’s short story collections. They aren’t uplifting, but they are realistic.

I think the main reason I enjoyed this one is because I could identify with the newspaper aspects of the book. I could recognize the personalities of so many of the employees. I remember being a reporter at a paper that was on its last leg. I remember the discussions about how the internet was effecting the publishing world. It was always a struggle and it’s the story of the newspaper that rang true for me and made the collection work.

BOTTOM LINE:
Try it if you love books set in foreign countries, love interwoven short story collections or have a deep love of journalism.

“The only death we experience is that of other people. That’s as bad as it gets. And that’s bad enough, surely.”

“Nothing epitomizes the futility of human striving quite life aspartame.”

“But this is how he is: easygoing, which means tough-going for everyone else.”

Photo by moi (bookmark from Rome)

Reading the States: North Carolina

Friday, August 24, 2012


State: NORTH CAROLINA

Fiction:
- Message in a Bottle* by Nicholas Sparks
- Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
- On Agate Hill by Lee Smith
- Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
- A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
- Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton
- Saints at the River by Ron Rash
- Jim the Boy by Tony Earley 
- The Lacuna* by Barbara Kingsolver
- A Walk to Remember* by Nicholas Sparks

Nonfiction:
- Me Talk Pretty One Day* by David Sedaris
- Far Appalachia by Noah Adams
- The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert 
- The Company Town by Hardy Green

Authors Known for Writing about the State:
- Nicholas Sparks
- Sarah Addison Allen
- Jan Karon
- Gail Godwin
- Lynette Hall Hampton

Authors Who Lived Here:
- Billy Graham
- Orson Scott Card
- O. Henry
- Tom Robbins

Great Bookstores:
Battery Park Book Exchange
Literary Bookpost 
Pomegranate Books

*Books I've Read
Photo by moi. 

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
 
by Douglas Adams

★★★☆

Time travel, a detective agency, Dodo birds, ghosts, Electric monks; this book is a hodgepodge of sci-fi elements and the bizarre, which is to say it’s a novel by Douglas Adams.

I’m a huge fan of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series and so I’ve been looking forward to this one for years. To tell the truth I was a bit disappointed, although the book is hilarious it’s also a bit convoluted and hard to follow. It still has Adam’s trademark humor and pokes fun at the absurd, but it lacks the heart that you’ll find in Hitchhiker. I think that a big part of the reason why can be attributed to Arthur Dent’s absence. His bumbling humanness is what grounds the craziness of Hitchhiker. The main character in Dirk, Richard MacDuff, is similar to Arthur but he’s never quite as endearing.

It’s almost impossible to explain the premise of the book, but this line from it is as close as I can get …

“Sherlock Holmes observed that once you have eliminated the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.” - Dirk Gently (also known as Svlad Cjelli).

One element that I loved was the idea of the Electric monks. People have created machines to do almost all of their menial tasks. We have dishwashers, microwaves, washing machines, etc. This novel takes it once step further, they’ve created robots called Electric monks to do their believing for them. It’s just one example of Adam’s brilliance.

“Don’t you understand that we need to be childish in order to understand? Only a child sees things with perfect clarity, because it hasn’t developed all those filters which prevent us from seeing things that we don’t expect to see?”

“If you really want to understand something, the best way is to try and explain it to someone else.”

“The phone rang and Janice answered it. ‘Good afternoon,’ she said, ‘Wainwright’s Fruit Emporium. Mr. Wainwright is not able to take calls at this time since he is not right in the head and thinks he is a cucumber.’”


BOTTOM LINE: T
he Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the best place to start with Adam’s work. If you already love that series then definitely check this one out! It’s not quite up to the same standard, but nothing of Adam’s should be missed.

p.s. I have to mention one fantastic line that nods to Hitchhiker, “Do you always carry a towel around in your briefcase?”

Wordless Wednesday: Dachau Gate

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


The gate at the Dachau Concentration Camp

More Wordless Wednesday here.

Photo by moi.

Top Ten Favorite Books You've Read During The Lifespan Of Your Blog

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for my Top Ten Favorite Books I've Read During the Lifespan of my Blog. I’ve read some wonderful ones over the past 3 years, but here’s a few of my favorites (with links to the original review) not counting re-reads.

1) David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

2)  The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

3) Maus by Art Spiegelman

4) The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby

5) The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

6) Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction and J.D. Salinger

7) I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

8) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green 

9) The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

10) A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Image from here.

Breaking Bad and Gone Girl

Monday, August 20, 2012

 
Everyone and their brother has already read and reviewed Gone Girl at this point. So instead of rehashing the plot I want to do something a bit different. Breaking Bad is one of my favorite shows on TV. There were elements of Gone Girl that reminded me a lot of the show so I thought I’d do a bit of a comparison.
 
**I will spoil nothing from Breaking Bad, but don’t read on if you haven’t already read Gone Girl. Instead, go read one of these great reviews and then go read the book!**
 
Now in its fifth season Breaking Bad continues to get better and better. It’s brilliantly written and it never fails to surprise me. The character development, the moral dilemmas, the gray areas that quickly become black and white, it’s just so well done!
 
One interesting aspect of the show is the marital relationship between Walter and Skyler White. Walter is a mild-mannered former high school chemistry professor who abandons his job when he’s diagnosed with cancer in the pilot. He decides to use his scientific knowledge to cook meth instead so he can leave his family enough money to survive when he dies. Skyler is his strong-willed wife who is unaware of his new career choices.
 
Throughout the course of the show their relationship vastly changes. Just like the married couple in Gone Girl, we start peeling back the layers and seeing a very different dynamic at the core. Both couples seem to be playing a perpetual game of chess. One will make a decision and the other carefully contemplates their strategy before making their own move.
 
Like Nick and Amy in Gone Girl, there are always secrets and the pair are never quite sure where they stand with each other. Also like our young Gone Girl couple, they seem so perfect and happy from the outside.
 
When TV or books are done right characters are multi-layered. Their motivations aren’t cut and dry. There’s growth and change and in both Breaking Bad and Gone Girl we see this happen.
 
BOTTOM LINE: The book is really good, go read it and enjoy. Breaking Bad is incredible, rent the first season and thank me later. 
 
Image form here

The Classics Club: August Response

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Lately I haven’t been the best at commenting on blogs and visiting all you lovely people. A big reason why is the wonderful Classics Club Blog which is now up and running. I am so excited that we have so many new members and reviews up, but it’s also been pretty time consuming keeping everything up to date, so I’m sorry! But on the plus side, here’s one of the wonderful new bits, the club is hosting a monthly meme question and here’s the first one…

"What is your favorite classic book? Why?"

There are so many books that have found their way into my heart over the years; To Kill a Mockingbird, Great Expectations, Rebecca, Little Women, A Moveable Feast, Jane Eyre and so many more. So it’s difficult to answer which one is my absolute favorite, but here’s what I came up with:
 
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

Unlike much of his other work, Travels with Charley is not fiction and it’s not depressing. Let’s face it, Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden and Of Mice and Men might be powerful books, but they’re also serious downers. Over the decades Steinbeck's books have been lauded by critics and readers alike and he has written some truly remarkable books, but "Travels with Charley" hit me on a completely new level. 

It’s different from almost any other classic I’ve read and I think that’s why it has stayed with me for so long. 

It's a nonfiction book written later in Steinbeck's life. After having written about the underdogs in America for years he realizes he has grown out of touch with his beloved country. He decides to take his dog Charley and travel across the United States in a camper. The book is about the people he meets and the thoughts he has along the way. The book combines so many things that I love; great writing, travel memoirs, a deep love for pets.

It’s also a beautiful look at connecting with the place you’re from and the people who live there. It’s easy to reduce a country, (even your own) to a cliché. Traveling through it reminds you of both the good and the bad, but in my experience it’s usually the good that stands out. I think this book where my love of road trips was born. When you fly from one city to the other you miss so much along the way. Steinbeck captures the feeling of really connecting with a place and the unexpected friendships you can form along the way.

Image from here.

Reading the States: New York

Friday, August 17, 2012


State: NEW YORK





Fiction: 


- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close* by Jonathan Safran Foer
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn* by Betty Smith
- The Great Gatsby* by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Wonderstruck* by Brian Selznick
- Falling Man* by Don Delillo
- Martin Dressler* by Steven Millhauser
- Forever* by Peter Hamill
- Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist* by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
- Dash and Lily's Book of Dares* by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
- Ironweed by William Kennedy
- Nobody’s Foo*l by Richard Russo
- The House of Mirth* by Edith Wharton
- The Crazyladies of Pearl Street by Trevanian
- Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow
- Clara and Mr. Tiffany* by Susan Vreeland
- Eloise* by Kay Thompson
- The Brooklyn Follies* by Paul Auster
- The History of Love* by Nicole Krauss
- The Age of Innocence* by Edith Wharton
- The Thieves of Manhattan by Adam Langer
- Daddy Was a Number Runner by Louise Meriwether
- The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
- The Bell Jar* by Sylvia Plath
- Let the Great World Spin* by Colum McCann
- Washington Square* by Henry James
- The Submission* by Amy Waldman  
- The Catcher in the Rye* by J.D. Salinger
 
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay* by Michael Chabon
- The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s* by Truman Capote
- The Alienist* by Caleb Carr
- The Nanny Diaries* by Emma Mclaughlin, Nicola Kraus
- Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang by Joyce Carol Oates
- Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
- Drown by Junot Diaz
- American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
- The Devil Wears Prada* by Lauren Weisberger
- The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
- Motherless Brooklyn* by Jonathan Lethem
- Brooklyn* by Colm Tóibín
- New York by Edward Rutherfurd
- The Cricket in Times Square* by George Selden
- Invisible Man* by Ralph Ellison
- The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow* by Washington Irving
- Time and Again* by Jack Finney
- An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
- The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
- A Gesture Life by Chang-Rae Lee

Nonfiction:

- Tis* by Frank McCourt  
- Here is New York* by E.B. White
- The Gangs of New York by Herbert Asbury
- The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer
- 84, Charing Cross Road* by Helene Hanff
- The Great Bridge* by David McCullough
- Kitchen Confidential* by Anthony Bourdain
- Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
- Just Kids* by Patti Smith

Authors Known for Writing in or about the State:
- J.D. Salinger
- Richard Russo
- Julia Spencer


Authors Who Lived Here:

BRONX

- Edgar Allan Poe
- James Baldwin

BROOKLYN
- Jhumpa Lahiri
- Jennifer Egan
- Jonathan Safran Foer
- Nicole Krauss
- Edwidge Danticat
- Maurice Sendak
- Walt Whitman
- Ezra Jack Keats
- Henry Miller
- Paul Auster

MANHATTAN- Norman Mailer
- E.E. Cummings
- Dorothy Parker
- William S. Burroughs
- Edna St. Vincent Millay
- Truman Capote
- Edith Wharton
- Langston Hughes
- Madeleine L’Engle
- John Updike
- Saul Bellow
- Zora Neale Hurston
- Salman Rushdie
- W.H. Auden
- O. Henry

QUEENS
- Jack Kerouac

STATEN ISLAND
- Frank McCourt
- Henry David Thoreau





Photo by moi.

Lady Susan

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Lady Susan
by Jane Austen
★★★☆

This small epistolary novel is a bit different from Austen’s other work. The title character, Lady Susan, is a manipulative selfish woman who is hard to like. She has almost no regard for her daughter Frederica and is doing her best to marry her off to the first man who comes along.

Lady Susan is used to always getting her way. She uses people to further herself and then when she is finished with them she moves on. The story revolves around her efforts to seduce and marry a young wealthy man. Through the observations and letters of those she comes in contact with we learn that everyone is concerned she might succeed. They warn the man in question, but he’s blinded by infatuation.

We don’t have long enough to become attached to any of the characters, but it’s still interesting to see how it unfolds. I thought the ending was wonderfully just and was happy with the book overall.

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re an Austen devotee it’s a must. Though the story isn’t as good, it’s fun to see Austen try a different style and exercise her writing skills. For anyone new to Austen I would say skip this one and start with one of her well-known novels.

“Where there is a disposition to dislike, a motive will never be wanting.”

Read for the Austen in August event hosted by Adam here.

Wordless Wednesday: Nashville Parthenon

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


The Parthenon in Nashville, TN

More Wordless Wednesday here.


Photo by moi.

Top Ten Book Romances That You Think Would Make It In The Real World

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for the Top Ten Book Romances That You Think Would Make it in the Real World. I once again decided to split it into 5 romances I think would definitely make it and 5 that I think don’t have a chance.

True Romance
1) Anne and Captain Wentworth from Persuasion
– Their love was not based on infatuation or whim. They loved each other from a distance for eight years and their time apart made them value each other even more. I think they would absolutely make it, because they know what life is like when they aren’t together.
 
2) David and Agnes from David Copperfield
– David’s first wife was never a good match for him. Agnes however is clever and loyal and she truly loves him. The two make a wonderful pair.
 
3) Anne and Gilbert from the Anne of Green Gables series
– The pair goes through so much over the course of the 8 books in the series. They stay together through sickness and health, loss and joy, living in new cities, having and raising children, etc. I think their marriage is a realistic one and they would definitely make it.
 
4) Jane and Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre
– Jane is incredibly honest with Mr. Rochester about who she is. Once they pulled all the skeletons out of his closet they discovered that they were still meant to be together and they are now on equal footing. They have a shared respect for each other and that’s essential to a successful marriage.
 
5) Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind
– No, it’s not a healthy relationship, but they do understand each other. They are both selfish, but they are at their best when they are loving each other. I always liked to believe the two would make it in the end.

Headed to Divorce Court
6) Bella and Edward from Twilight – Let’s see, you have to give up everything and everyone in your life to be with him. Red flag! You have to change everything about who you are to be with him. Red flag! Yes, the books are fun to read, but they don’t paint a picture for a healthy relationship.
 
7) Almost anything by Nicholas Sparks
– These formulaic romances always have unrealistic situations. A pair of troubled individuals meet, instantly fall in love and then one of them usually ends up dying. Frankly I think he kills someone off because he knows how ridiculous their relationship is to start with.
 
8) Heathcliff and Catherine from Wuthering Heights
– No, just no. The writing may be beautiful, but there is no chance in hell that this love would ever make it off the page. It couldn’t even make it on the page! These two characters are too selfish and self-involved to ever make a relationship work.
 
9) Miranda and Ferdinand from The Tempest
– This is one of my favorite Shakespearean plays, but while I adore it I don’t think the romance would last. When they “fall in love” Miranda has never seen another living male except for her father and their wild slave Caliban. I have a feeling the second she realizes there are millions of other men on the planet she might regret marrying the first one that crossed her path.
 
10) Ralph and Catherine from A Reliable Wife
– Their marriage was based on lies and deceit from the start. That’s not the best start for any couple.

Image from here.

The Cookbook Collector

Monday, August 13, 2012


The Cookbook Collector
by Allegra Goodman
★★★

Sisters Emily and Jess lost their mother when at a young age. Now as adults they’ve chosen completely different life styles. Emily is the co-founder of a successful dotcom business. Jess is an eternal student, working in a bookstore and campaigning for eco rights in Berkley.

The characters and premise are interesting, but the problem is Goodman can’t decide whose story she wants to tell. She starts with the two sisters, but she quickly gets side tracked by their friends, family, lovers, co-workers at the dotcom company and bookstore, etc. Soon she’s juggling so many story lines that it’s hard to care about any of them. Just as you would get interested in one plot, the story would abruptly switch over to a completely unrelated group of people.

We kept leaving the sisters’ stories and going into everyone else’s lives. First it was Emily’s boyfriend Jonathan and his dotcom company with his friend Orion. Then it was Orion’s crush on a co-worker, then Jess’ new boss George, then a rabbi that Jess meets; you see how things could get a bit muddled.

I also was not a fan of the title. One of the many subplots follows a woman who is selling her deceased uncles’ rare collection of cookbooks, but that wasn’t even one of the main story lines. It made me think the book was about a homemaker and her love for baking or something and I don’t think it fit the book at all.

Frankly I think I would have enjoyed the entire book a lot more if the software companies’ plots had been completely axed. The most interesting story lay with Jess (not her tree hugging tendencies) and her relationship with her sister, the bookstore where she worked and George. Unfortunately there were too many distracting subplots. I think it would have made a better short story collection. There were some wonderful characters, they just needed their own space to shine.

BOTTOM LINE: It was off to a good start, but the novel loses itself when it tries to tell too many stories at once. I would be willing to try something else by the author in the hopes that her future work is a bit more focused.

Reading the States: New Mexico

Friday, August 10, 2012


State: NEW MEXICO


 

Fiction: 
- Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
- Santa Fe Dead by Stuart Woods
- Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather 

- The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols
- The Guardians by Ana Castillo
- Surveyor by G. W. Hawkes
- Bless Me, Ultima* by Rudolfo Anaya
- Leave Her to Heaven by Ben Ames Williams
- House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday 
- Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford
Nonfiction:

- Sky Determines by Ross Calvin
- Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides
- The Myth of Santa Fe by Chris Wilson
- The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes 

Authors Known for Writing in or about the State: 

- Erna Fergusson
- Tony Hillerman 



Authors Who Lived Here:
- Rudolfo Anaya
- Cormac McCarthy
- Martha Grimes
*Books I've Read 





Photo by moi.

Unbroken

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Unbroken
A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
by Laura Hillenbrand
★★★★

This WWII survival tale is not an entertaining book. It’s not one that you read for a laugh or to pass the time on a rainy afternoon. It is intense and difficult to read, because it’s horrible to think of anyone going through these things. BUT, and that’s a big but, I think it’s important to read books like this. If we ignore the painful parts of our world’s history, we are doing a huge disservice to all of the people who lived during that time and whose actions created the world we live in today. 

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.” Michael Crichton

Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete and lieutenant in the Army Air Forces was in a bomber plane when it crashed into the ocean in May 1943. After more than a month a sea, facing unbelievable trials, he realizes he troubles have only begun. 

SPOILERS
It was alarming to learn how little soldiers had in their emergency kits in the rafts if their planes crashed. They had almost no practical items and I can’t believe Louis managed to survive at sea for more than a month. 

After surviving sharks, starvation and dehydration, Louis and his fellow raft mate are finally picked up by the Japanese only to be imprisoned as prisoners of war. The conditions of the prisons were horrendous and they were once again near death because of sickness and starvation. 

The book also details the Rape of Nanking, one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever read about in the history of the world. It made me absolutely sick. There was also a Japanese prison guards, known as The Bird, whose sadistic, evil nature was shocking and really heartbreaking. It’s unbelievable what the prisoners went through. 

I kept thinking about the families of the men who were lost at sea. I can’t imagine what they were going through, not knowing if their sons/husbands/fathers were alive or dead. They couldn’t grieve for their loss, because that would be giving up hope. It must have been a kind of torture of its own. 
 
One aspect I was very glad the author discussed was Louis’ struggles after he returned home. The story doesn't just end because they make it out of the war. I can’t imagine anyone making it through something so awful and not developing some type of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Those men would undoubtedly struggle with those demons for the rest of their lives. 

SPOILERS OVER

The different forms of torture and sickness described are pretty graphic. I can’t say I’d recommend it if you have a weak stomach. But, I also want to say that this isn’t gratuitous violence, it’s what actually happened to these men. If they could go through these appalling things to fight for our country, I think I can handle reading about it. There are dry parts in the book, but the journalist in me wants the whole story. Even if there are boring bits, I want to know who they are as a person so I can become invested in the story. 

Louis’ story, and that of the other men, is a testament to what humans can endure, the strength that hope can give us and the atrocities of war. War is not an abstract idea, it’s real and it’s horrifying and we should never forget that. 

SIDE NOTE: If you guys aren't already watching John and Hank Green's Crash Course videos you should be! The YA author and his hilarious brother are walking us through the history of the world and Science 101. The videos can be found here

Images of Louis Zamperini from here and here.

Wordless Wednesday: The Great Purge

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

(Photo of the first batch of bags)

**UPDATE: I was able to get rid of 20 bags of stuff, which is pretty good! I think I may have to make this an annual tradition.**

A few of my co-workers and I decided that August would be a month of purging for us. The idea came out of a conversation we had at some point where we all realized how much stuff we have that we don't use. We decided to try and come up with one plastic bag (grocery store size) full of stuff to get rid of for every day in August. It can be anything; clothes, books, kitchen utensils, old paper files, etc.

I'm going to try and come up with 31 bags (one for each day of the month) total, but I can come up with 3 or 4 bags in one day. So far I've come up with 12 bags. Anyway, here's to simplifying life and getting rid of things we don't need. I'll let you know if I succeed or not. 

More Wordless Wednesday here.

Cheaper by the Dozen

Tuesday, August 7, 2012



Cheaper by the Dozen
by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
★★★★


This book has absolutely nothing to do with the recent Steve Martin movies. It’s a nonfiction account, written by two of the children, of their experiences growing up in a family with twelve kids. Their eccentric father was a motion study analyst and taught them the more efficient way to do everything! He even showed them (while he was fully clothed) the fastest way to wash yourself with soap when bathing.


One of my favorite anecdotes from the book was when the family was visited by a representative of the national birth control society. They were there to ask the mother if she wanted to get involved with their organization (not knowing how many kids she had). Then the father called all 12 children downstairs and the woman just about had a heart attack.

Their father was incredibly focused on teaching them. He quizzed them on multiplication tables, taught them how to type and constantly had recordings going that taught them how to speak French and German. He talked their teachers into frequently letting them skip grades because the kids excelled at such young ages. Unfortunately, as great as that sounds, it’s incredibly hard on the kids to have to make new friends and start all over in a new grade.


"In those days women who were scholars were viewed with some suspicion. When mother and dad were married, the Oakland paper said, 'Although a graduate of the University of California, the bride is, none the less, an extremely attractive young woman.'"

Cheaper photo from here.

Rilla of Ingleside

Monday, August 6, 2012


Rilla of Ingleside
by L.M. Montgomery
★★★★★

This is the eighth and final book in the Anne of Green Gables series. I’ve slowly been working my way through the series and in the last couple books I really missed having Anne as one of the main characters. In this installment Anne’s youngest daughter, Rilla takes center stage and the book got back to the heart of the first few books. It embraced all of my favorite elements from the early books.

It’s a bit more serious than the previous books. The characters are forced to deal with the realities of war and the loss of their quiet lives as their sons and sweethearts are sent off to fight in World War I. It deals with big issues, but offers perspective and hope along with the drama. The book was published shortly after WWI ended, so the trauma everyone had experienced must have been very fresh in Montgomery’s mind as she wrote this.

The characters see firsthand how painful war is as they watch the men in the community leave to fight in battles on another continent. Some of the men feel the need to leave immediately and join the fight; others struggle with a desire to serve their country while wanting peace. The women are left to take care of the homes alone. They all believe the war will be over soon and begin to loose hope as months stretch into years.

We see the hurried wedding of a war bride and the fate of an orphaned baby whose father is at the front and whose mother dies in childbirth. Rilla takes care of the war baby and she has to go from being an innocent teenager to a woman over the course of the war. We also see Rilla and her mother, our beloved Anne, stretched to the point of breaking as they fight their own fear and grief.

SPOILERS

When Walter died my heart broke. Rilla’s brother was the person she was closest to in the whole world. My own brother is one of my best friends and the thought of losing him in a war is terrifying. Walter’s last letter to Rilla will stay with me for years to come. His words about the power of sacrifice and being at peace with death are more beautiful than I can explain.

SPOILERS OVER

BOTTOM LINE: I love this series so much and this book is now among my favorites. It was a fitting ending to the saga and I look forward to re-reading the whole series in the future.
 
“It is a strange thing to read a letter after the writer is dead, a bittersweet thing in which pain and comfort are strangely mingled.”

“Ah yes, you’re young enough not to be scared of perfect things.”

Reading the States: New Jersey

Friday, August 3, 2012

 
State: NEW JERSEY 




Fiction: 
- The Plot Against America* by Philip Roth
- American Pastoral* by Philip Roth 
- The Empress of Weehawken by Irene Dische
- Independence Day by Richard Ford
- Garden State by Rick Moody
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao* by Junot Díaz
- Sloppy Firsts* by Megan McCafferty
- Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret* by Judy Blume
- The Rule of Four* by Ian Caldwell, Dustin Thomason
- Drown by Junot Díaz
- The Sportswriter by Richard Ford

Nonfiction:
- Have a Little Faith* by Mitch Albom
- The Pine Barrens, by John McPhee
- Weird N.J. by Mark Moran
- Close to Shore by Michael Capuzzo

Authors Known for Writing in or about the State:
 
- Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr.
- Janet Evanovich

Authors Who Lived Here:

- Philip Roth
- Ethan Hawke
- Mary Higgins Clark
- Tom Perrotta
- Stephen Colbert
- Junot Díaz

*Books I've Read 





Photo by moi.

Where in the World Are You Reading: Libraries

Thursday, August 2, 2012


This month's Where in the World Are You Reading, hosted by Kailana, Lisa, and Trish is Libraries! The above photo was taken inside my favorite local library, the Central Library in downtown Indianapolis. It is a combination of an old library (completed in 1917) and a new addition (completed just a couple years ago). The result is glorious.


This is the view looking down on the main lobby from the fifth floor. There was actually a wedding reception set up (see the white tables) on the day I took this.


On the left you can see a great view of downtown Indy from the sixth (top) floor of the library.

On the right is a view of the escalators leading all the way up to the top of the library, which take you one floor above the Rivendell-style arches you see in the photo.


On the left you can see the outside of the library. The old half of the library is connected to the new half (on the left), which is six floors high with huge glass walls.

On the right you can see the beautiful older section. There are names of famous authors engraved in the walls.

This library is my happy place. It's my favorite place in the whole city!

Photos by moi.

Wordless Wednesday: The Classics Club

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


I wanted to let you all know that the new homepage for The Classics Club is officially active today! I decided to join the club when Jillian started it in March, but it was so popular she decided to start a separate website just to keep up with all of the participants. 
I'm now one of the moderators of the site and I couldn't be more excited. I hope you'll all stop by even if you don't join in the fun. The other moderators have done an amazing job and all of your questions will be answered here.

More Wordless Wednesday here.

Photo by moi.